Archive | January, 2012

How Employees Fail #3: Integrity

25 Jan

Managers occasionally discover an employee telling untruths, cheating or stealing, confront them and discover more issues.  In most of these cases, unless there are credible mitigating circumstances, the employee is fired.  In some, the manager has given the person yet another chance, unfortunately most of these second chances result in further problems.

There is an important principle here:

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

When people engage in the above actions they are far out on the continuum of inappropriate behavior and have probably been doing these things for some time.

Another key idea:

“Habits are cobwebs and grow into cables”

In this situation the manger must make a difficult decision.  Second chances occasionally work, but do they work if the behavior is practiced and how can you assess this?  Three important questions:

1. How long has this been occurring?

2. What is the magnitude of the issue?

3. Has this had an effect on customers?

In this situation you have to balance the needs of the company against the needs of the individual who has transgressed in a serious manner.  Next week – how to strike this balance.

How Employees Fail #2

18 Jan

Research shows there are three broad predictors of success in the workplace:

• Competence

• People skills

• Integrity

Put more explicitly, problem employees:

• Are incapable of carrying out their basic job

• Treat others (co-workers, customers, vendors) badly

• Lie, cheat, steal

Let’s review tactics to address each of these issues one at a time.

This issue of poor performance in the technical aspects of the job is probably the easiest of the three.  If your hiring practices are satisfactory, sometimes people do not master a job.  A reasonable assumption is they need training/coaching.  You should begin with intensive coaching.  Most people rapidly respond favorably to this type of attention.  If six weeks of this doesn’t show progress then you may have to consider finding a better job fit for the person or releasing them from employment.  More about this later in this series.  Next week, what about integrity problems?

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When Feedback Fails

11 Jan

Most managers spend lots of time chasing problems.  I once was involved in a difficult personnel issue that continued for nearly a year before it was resolved.  It consumed a third of my time and was very unpleasant.

As I look back on that problem I am fairly sure that had I been more proactive the solution, which resulted in a resignation, would have been faster and better for everyone.  But, my hindsight is 20/20.

When we have people problems, especially in small organizations, they can quickly become major issues.  This blog begins a series on ways to prevent or if the problem occurs when we are not noticing, act in an effective manner.

Let’s begin with the reasonable assumption that you will have a problem employees so there is little gained by reviewing prevention. Save this topic for later.

Next week we will define the three general types of people problems you will experience as a manager.  One of these is probably impossible to solve.  However, the other two are manageable if you have the appropriate tools.

Basic Coaching

4 Jan

Last week I sent you to a link on coaching in a team setting.  But what about working with a “newbee” or someone who is struggling to master a new job?  For this the definitive protocol exists in a book entitled Zapp! The lightening of empowerment.  Develop excellent performance in “7” simple steps.  Please remember that these are principles, not rules.  Thus, you must practice and fit them to your style.  The critical elements are:

1. Explain the purpose and importance of what you are trying to teach.

2. Explain the process to be used.

3. Demonstrate how it’s done.

4. Observe as the other person practices the process.

5. Provide immediate and specific feedback.

6. Express confidence in the person’s ability.

7. Agree on follow-up actions.

This process is skill- and time- intensive.  When practiced effectively it almost always works.  If it doesn’t, you have identified yet another issue (motivation, ability).  Many companies use this tool in a “buddy system” where an experienced person, usually not a manager, is paired up with a “newbie.”

More on Happiness and productivity.  See the January-February issue of the Harvard Business Review.